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Orlando Collaborative Family Law and Professionalism

By Orlando Collaborative Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I believe that the vast majority of attorneys are caring and professional in their behavior and advocacy for their clients. In our adversarial system it is only natural though that by the end of the case, at least one of the parties will feel like they lost. That is especially true in Family Law, the area I practice in.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way and that is one of the reasons I have developed a Collaborative Family Law Practice where husbands and wives agree to work together to resolve the issues without having to take the case to Court.

Not only are both parties winners in Collaborative Law, because they avoided acrimonious Litigation, but also because both parents together have focused on their kids’ best interests.

I have actually participated in Collaborative Law Cases where both parties have felt like they are not only happy with the final results but that they believe they have done everything they can mutually to protect their children and to ensure that their children thrive even after the Dissolution of Marriage. They have chosen to love their children the most and to continue to be friends in order to co-parent their children in the most healthy and productive way possible.

A Word About “Collaborative” Family Law Attorneys

Attorneys who practice Collaborative Family Law are some of the most professional, ethical and caring lawyers I have ever met. The focus is no longer on litigation and winning at no small expense, financially, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually to the clients. And in  addition to the Collaborative Family Law Attorneys, there are highly professional Neutral Collaborative Professionals like the Financial Collaborative Professional and the Mental Health Collaborative Professional. They assist the clients and attorneys in putting together Equitable Distribution Worksheets and other financial documents as well as the Parenting Plan and other important documents in the case.

I am not saying that Family Law Attorneys involved in the Litigation aspects of Family Law are not for the most part Professional. There certainly are many. But those Attorneys who have decided to focus on Collaborative Family Law, do it I believe, because they care about the process of helping clients resolve their cases in the healthiest and most productive way possible.

What Kind of Family Law Attorney Are You Looking For?

By Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

Some people want an experienced, more expensive Family Law Attorney and some people want a newer, less expensive Family Law Attorney. Some people want their attorney to be a “bulldog” and some people want someone who cares about them and their future.  Is it possible to get all of these in one Family Law firm? Let’s explore this question.

The Marks Law Firm has several attorneys, with professional rates ranging from $275 to $450 per hour. We also have attorneys with experience levels from 3 to 44 years. The Firm has an experienced team of paralegals with rates of $125 per hour.

So how do you put all of those fees and costs together in the most cost effective, efficient and strategic way? The answer is that we work as a team. The paralegals support the attorneys and do whatever they can under the supervision of the attorneys to keep costs down.

For those looking for a more cost effective source of representation, we pair the paralegals with the more entry-level attorney(s). On bigger more complex cases we utilize the more experienced attorneys along with the paralegals and if necessary the more cost effective younger lawyers.

Of course we have administrative support staff including our Receptionist, Office Manager and Marketing Director.  This provides administrative support that includes having non-legal client questions answered without charging the client. In addition, we bring the client on as part of the team with the paralegals, attorneys and support staff.

The client knows the facts as to what has occurred in the marriage and leading up to the Dissolution of the Marriage, Paternity action or any other family law matter we might be handling for them. I like to say we “row the boat together” or we “plow the field together”. That way the client, as part of the team, works in unison with the paralegals and attorneys in a very collaborative and synergistic way. I have found this team effort to be a great way to be on the same page with the client in presenting our case in Mediation, to Opposing Counsel or to the Court.

We make every effort to resolve each client’s case in an amicable and an uncontested fashion. However, when we find the other side being completely unreasonable and unwilling to resolve the family law matter in a positive realistic way, we are experienced enough and ready to litigate our clients case to the fullest.

You might call that, “being a bulldog,” we would call that “representing our clients zealously”. So we are able to provide the whole range of family law services and competencies to the Client, bringing the Client on to the team of Attorneys, Paralegals, Legal Assistants, and Administrative support staff. Simply put, we care deeply about our Clients. We want to see them better off for having been represented by The Marks Law Firm. We strive to represent our clients with integrity, excellence and devotion. Our clients are our mission.

What About a Post-Nup Marital Agreement?

Everyone is familiar with at least the general idea of a pre-nuptial agreement—a contract you enter before your marriage that governs what will happen to certain assets and liabilities if things don’t work out.

But did you know you can still take advantage of those same protections AFTER you say “I do?”

Florida law allows married parties to enter into a post-nuptial agreement—a contract after you’ve been married that has basically the same impact as a pre-nup would. Most people don’t consider this option, either because of taboo or because they simply don’t know it exists. However, a post-nuptial agreement can be a great way to alleviate financial concerns that arise after your wedding day.

For example, a post-nuptial agreement can be very helpful in limiting the fights over finances that so often create conflict in the home. By addressing money issues in a post-nup, you can remove some of the financial uncertainty that may be causing your spouse to worry. A post-nup also allows you to protect assets that you didn’t have coming into the marriage, but have since built or acquired.
While the discussion about a post-nup may be a delicate conversation, it may be one worth having. If you think a post-nuptial agreement would be beneficial in your marriage, you should contact one of the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss the option in more detail.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce Questions for Orlando Divorce Lawyer – General Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce):

Questions I should ask my divorce lawyer about my case and questions about divorce to Orlando Divorce Attorneys

What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?”
In addition to ending your marriage, a divorce (or “dissolution of marriage”) addresses all issues within the marriage, including property, finances, and child-related issues.  This is the most common way to deal with marital issues, as Florida does not recognize “legal separation.” However, if you prefer a less permanent route, there are options available to obtain financial support or address concerns related to minor child(ren) without filing for divorce.  For example, Florida law allows a married party to pursue an action for support and maintenance without dissolution of marriage.  That allows for a time of separation and the chance to consider the circumstance without the prospect of a full divorce hanging over you.  If you would like to discuss these options in more detail, contact one of the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to schedule a consultation at your convenience.

Why should I have a lawyer representing me during my divorce?
While many individuals proceed through the divorce process, having the help of an attorney with family law experience can go a long way toward protecting your interests. Florida’s family laws have developed over many decades and are often nuanced and complicated.  An experienced attorney will understand these laws and be able to help you avoid the mistakes or unfavorable results that can arise from not knowing all of your rights.  For example, pro se litigants (those who represent themselves) often do recognize or include important considerations such as ensuring adequate financial protections in the event a spouse passes away, the tax implications of paying spousal or child support, practical ways to avoid future conflict, and significant children’s issues that pro se parties don’t often consider.  The family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have the experience to support you with these difficult issues.

How can I find out which decision-making option would be best for my situation?
The presumption in Florida is what is called “Shared Parental Responsibility,” which starts from the position that each parent is considered an equal in parenting the child(ren). When the Florida Legislature changed the “custody” verbiage in 2008, the intent was to ensure that neither parent was considered superior to the other and that each parent should have as much time with the child(ren) possible, unless very particular circumstances (i.e. child abuse, substance abuse etc.) indicate otherwise. There are accommodations that can be made for “shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making” and “sole parental responsibility” when appropriate, although these are exceptions and must be justified by the significant evidence. The family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm can educate and guide you as part of your team to make informed and well thought through decisions that can positively impact you and your children for years.

My spouse refuses to give a divorce. What are my options?
Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that either party may pursue a divorce without the consent of the other.  That means that even if your spouse refuses to cooperate, you can file and pursue a divorce proceeding on your own.  The Marks Law Firm is focused on family law and knows how to effectively assist spouses who face this frustrating situation.

What is the difference between an uncontested and contested dissolution of marriage?
An uncontested dissolution of marriage occurs when the spouses agree on all issues, including time sharing and child support, property distribution, and spousal support.  The benefit of an uncontested proceeding is that it minimizes conflict and allows the parties to maintain control over the outcome.  However, if the spouses cannot agree on any of these issues, the matter becomes contested and requires the Court to make the decisions for the parties.  The Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have over 75 years of combined experience helping families in both contested and uncontested family law litigation.

Can I get my marriage dissolved without a lawyer?
Yes, you can obtain a dissolution of marriage without the help of legal counsel.  However, there are a number of steps to the process and before you decide to do it alone, you should consider whether you are comfortable with the following questions:

  • What do I need to file to start the divorce process?
  • Where do I file the necessary documents?
  • Do I know and understand all of the applicable statutes and time limits?
  • What am I allowed to legally ask for during my divorce (i.e. alimony, child support etc…)?
  • Do I know all of my legal rights and how to avoid waiving them?
  • What are my obligations to my spouse and child(ren) during the case and how might those obligations change when we are finished?
  • How are child support and alimony determined?
  • How does the Court determine property division in a family law case?

These are only some of the issues that may come up during your divorce case, and the outcome of these issues will affect you for years to come.  At The Marks Law Firm, our family law attorneys know the answers to these questions and have the training and experience to ensure your rights are protected.

Won’t a lawyer turn our dissolution of marriage into a battleground?”
It’s true that sometimes attorneys can add to the dissension and make matters harder, but normally the opposite happens.  The emotions and personal feelings associated with a dissolution of marriage can be overwhelming.  It’s often difficult for spouses to be objective during the divorce and work together to reach a reasonable and proper result.  While the goal of your lawyer is to fight for you and to protect you and your child(ren), an experienced family lawyer will also help you understand the legal and practical issues involved in your case and avoid unnecessary costs and headaches.  Involving an attorney early on also gives you a better chance for an early resolution, which allows you to move on with your life more quickly.

How long do I have to live in Florida before I can file a divorce action?
A person seeking a divorce in Florida must have resided in the state for at least 6 months prior to filing the divorce.  This means you must have lived in Florida with the intent to remain here for at least the 6 months leading up to the beginning of your divorce case.  If you are unsure about which state has jurisdiction over your divorce case, you can contact the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your concerns.

In Florida is there a waiting period before my divorce becomes final?
There is no waiting period or cooling off period in Florida. If you and your spouse agree on all issues that need to be resolved, and your paperwork is in order and properly completed, your divorce can be finished as quickly as the Court’s schedule allows for you to attend a final hearing.

Why is the date of separation important?
The date of separation can be important because it is one of the dates a Court can use to determine the value of property to be distributed during a divorce, and can set the date for determining back child support or spousal support.  The Court also often uses the date the Petition is filed, as it can be difficult to nail down a specific date of separation, especially when the parties have been growing distant over a period of months or even years.  Determining the proper date, and applying that date to the calculations involved, can be tricky, and if you have questions about this issue it is a good idea to contact one of the attorneys at The Marks Law Firm for a consultation. We are Orlando divorce lawyers.

How is the date of separation determined?
As mentioned above, it can be difficult to determine the separation date. If you know the exact date on which one of the parties left the marital home, that is likely the best way to calculate the date of separation.  If you don’t recall that date, or if you are still living together, it is hard to pinpoint a date of separation and the Court may use the date of the Petition instead.  If you have questions about determining your date of separation, or regarding the best date to use for valuing your property for legal purposes, you can call The Marks Law Firm and discuss your questions with one of our experienced family lawyers.

Divorce Initial Consultation:

How can I get the most out of my Initial Consultation?
You should come to your Initial Consult as prepared and organized as possible. That means it will help save time if you have at least some basic financial documents like your most recent paystub, savings, checking and brokerage statements. It will also be very helpful to fill out our Initial Consult forms as completely as possible prior to coming in for your consult to give to the Attorney when you meet.  You should also think of any questions you may want to ask and write those down or even E-mail them to the Firm prior to the day of the Initial Consult. The Orlando Attorneys at The Marks Law Firm work hard to combine excellent counsel with cost effective representation, and anything you can do to save the Attorney time will ultimately save you money.

If I request a consultation, does that mean I have to hire you?
No, you are under no obligation to hire the Attorney or the Firm because you have set an Initial Consult. You should take the time to make sure the firm is a good fit for you before you retain the Attorney.

Do you give consultations over the telephone?
Yes, this can be an effective way to get started especially with time constraints and perhaps geographical distances. Ultimately is usually is a good idea for the Client and the Attorney to meet in person, but as long as the Client completes the Initial Consult forms and emails them back with some basic financial documents, (see below) a telephonic Initial Consult can be very effective.

I don’t even know if I need an attorney.  Is there just a packet of forms I can use?
If you have no minor children, and you and your spouse can agree on everything and feel comfortable enough that you know what you are doing, there are forms for a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” available. You can also get forms if you have minor children, but we do not recommend it because of the added complexities. In fact if you have any significant assets or minor children, you should take the completed forms in to meet with an Attorney to look at them before you sign them. That way you may only have to pay an Attorney for one hour of time and then the rest yourself. Our Orlando Divorce Law Firm, Marks Law Firm regularly does this type of consultation and would be glad to answer any questions you have about the process before you file your paperwork.

Will I be involved in my own case?
Absolutely! At The Marks Law Firm in Orlando, FL our approach is that the Client and the Firm are a “Team.”  The Client knows the facts of the case better than the Attorney ever will, because the Client has lived through it, so the only way the Team can succeed is if we work together toward a common goal. When the Attorney/Paralegal and Client working collaboratively and with great communication, we can reach the best possible resolution for you and your family.

Mediation

Mediation

Mediation is a process by which an impartial third-party, the Mediator, assists the parties in resolving their dispute.  The family lawyers at the Marks Law Firm can help guide you through this non-adversarial approach to conflict resolution that empowers the parties to generate their own solution to their dispute.  In Florida, parties to a dissolution (divorce) proceeding are required to attend mediation before moving toward a trial and each Florida County has a Mediation Department to assist with the process. The Marks Law Firm also works regularly with private mediators to help clients resolve their matter more efficiently and with less expense.

Mediation is a great way to resolve your matter without the cost, both financially and personally, that usually accompanies a full trial.  Through mediation the parties maintain control over the result through negotiation and discussion, which generally is preferred to ceding control to a Judge who may or may not see things your way.  The family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have significant experience working with clients through mediation and have found mediation to be a fruitful and positive experience for most clients.

Mediation is a great way for pro se parties with limited funds to obtain a quick and fair resolution of their case, and The Marks Law Firm can provide support to individuals in that situation.  If you would like more information about mediation in Central Florida, contact the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm in Orlando to schedule a consultation.

Adoption

Adoption

The decision to adopt is one of the most important choices your family will ever make. Whether you are starting a family or growing your own, adoption is a blessing and a gift to everyone involved. It is important to recognize the complexity and various time periods of all adoption related cases. Despite your eagerness to officially welcome a child into your family, often times the necessary legal procedures may span several months.  If you begin the process without thorough research, you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed quickly. Each adoption journey differs beyond the child involved. Do not underestimate the impact of the details and how your current family dynamic could change.

Perhaps you are in a position to gain legal guardianship of a stepchild, or even a child in the foster care system. No matter the specifics of your circumstances, be mindful of how you would like to proceed with your case in the most efficient and seamless manner. Your consultation with an attorney will provide you with an opportunity to explore many different possibilities.

You need a family law firm with the experience and understanding to support you through the adoption process, Florida adoption law and adoption finalization.  At The Marks Law Firm in Orlando, Florida it is our pleasure to help clients experience the joy of growing their family through adoption, whether domestic or international.  Our Orlando family attorneys and paralegals employ the right balance of legal skill and personal compassion as we work with you to make the dream of parenthood a reality.

Regardless of your stage in the adoption process, The Marks Law Firm Orlando is here to support you in the child adoption process. Call our office to schedule a consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys. We look forward to serving your adoption related needs.


Attorney Profiles

Lawyers at The Marks Law Firm, P.A. – Family Law & Divorce Attorneys

Every attorney, paralegal, and professional staff member of The Marks Law Firm, P.A. – Family Law & Divorce Attorneys is an integral part of a principle centered Family Law Team. It is our Mission: “To Honor God and Faithfully Represent our Clients with Great Leadership, Attitude, Excellence and Teamwork.”


Tom Marks, Esquire


Matt Capstraw, Esquire


Attorney A. Jay Fowinkle


Attorney Mari Minks


Attorney Ronald L. Sims,
(Of Counsel)


Attorney Nicole Arfaras Kerr, (Of Counsel)